Every yoga pose, known in Sanskrit as an “asana,” has its own way of bringing the body and mind into greater harmony. World-renowned yoga teacher B.K.S. Iyengar poetically compares the body to a bow and each asana to the various arrows with which individuals target the ultimate aim of yoga practice — the soul.
This guide offers an in-depth look at eagle pose (garudasana).
About the Pose
Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythologies all include the creature known as a “garuda” — commonly described as having the golden body of a man with a white face, red wings, and an eagle’s beak. In all cultures, a garuda represents a spiritual and forbidding mount for sacred deities. When you envision a bird pose, you might think of a bird in flight with its wings extended. Yet, yoga students practicing eagle pose don’t spread their arms. This pose instead focuses more on the balance a bird (or bird-like mythical creature) must have in order to soar on the wind. Level: Beginner Key Benefits:
- Develops better balance
- Stretches the chest, shoulders, hips, and back
- Aids digestion
- Individuals with a knee, elbow, ankle or wrist injury should avoid this pose.
- In the late part of their term, pregnant women also should skip eagle pose.
- Tree Pose (Vrksasana): This beginner pose improves balance, discourages flat feet, and strengthens the legs.
- Boat Pose (Navasana): This intermediate pose engages your core and strengthens your hip flexors.
- Warrior III Pose (Virabhadrasana III): This intermediate pose truly builds your balance and leg muscles.
- Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana): This intermediate pose tests your balance while strengthening your back and legs.
Trying It Out
Remember to keep your breathing full and steady as you follow these step-by-step instructions to try this pose out for yourself:
Begin in mountain pose (tadasana).
Lift your right leg slowly so you can properly balance on your left foot. Bring your right leg across your left leg and tuck it behind you so your right foot hooks onto your left shin.
Press your legs together, using the top of your right foot to push into your left shin for stability. Bend your right knee.
Lift your arms and bend them at the elbows in front of you so your fingers point toward the sky. Cross your left elbow over your right elbow and try to press your palms together.
Keep your balance and breathe in this pose for a few minutes until you decide to uncross and practice the same pose on the other side.
Refining the Pose
Achieving maximum benefit from your yoga practice requires you to pay close attention to your physical alignment. To ensure you maintain proper alignment, ask yourself these questions:
- Are your shoulders rolled back, but not cinched up by your ears?
- Are your crossed elbows lifting instead of drooping?
- Are you engaging all of your standing leg’s muscles?
- Are you using your crossed leg to press against your standing leg for balance?
- Is your spine straight?
- Are your hips even?
- Half Eagle Pose (Ardha Garudasana): Instead of practicing the full eagle pose, you can achieve this variation by not crossing your elbows and only rotating your wrists so they press together in front of your chest. Then, cross one foot over the other instead of hooking one leg behind the other.
- Eagle Pose With a Chair (Garudasana Chair): This variation uses the same movements while you sit straight up in a chair.
- Eagle Pose With Elbows to Knees (Garudasana Variation I): After achieving full eagle pose, bend from your waist until your elbows touch your knees.